List Of Contents | Contents of The Little Duke by Charlotte M. Yonge
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lifted him upon the sill, and stood there with his arm round him,
upon which the shout, "Long live Richard, our little Duke!" arose
again.  Meantime, the two Centevilles looked in wonder at the old
Harcourt, who shook his head and muttered in his own tongue, "I will
do all I may, but our force is small, and the King has the best of
it.  We must not yet bring a war on ourselves."

"Hark! he is going to speak," said Osmond.

"Fair Sirs!--excellent burgesses!" began the King, as the cries
lulled a little. {11}  "I rejoice to see the love ye bear to our
young Prince!  I would all my subjects were equally loyal!  But
wherefore dread me, as if I were come to injure him?  I, who came but
to take counsel how to avenge the death of his father, who brought me
back from England when I was a friendless exile.  Know ye not how
deep is the debt of gratitude I owe to Duke William?  He it was who
made me King--it was he who gained me the love of the King of
Germany; he stood godfather for my son--to him I owe all my wealth
and state, and all my care is to render guerdon for it to his child,
since, alas!  I may not to himself.  Duke William rests in his bloody
grave!  It is for me to call his murderers to account, and to cherish
his son, even as mine own!"

So saying, Louis tenderly embraced the little boy, and the Rouennais
below broke out into another cry, in which "Long live King Louis,"
was joined with "Long live Richard!"

"You will not let the child go?" said Eric, meanwhile, to Harcourt.

"Not without provision for his safety, but we are not fit for war as
yet, and to let him go is the only means of warding it off."

Eric groaned and shook his head; but the Count de Harcourt's judgment
was of such weight with him, that he never dreamt of disputing it.

"Bring me here," said the King, "all that you deem most holy, and you
shall see me pledge myself to be your Duke's most faithful friend."

There was some delay, during which the Norman Nobles had time for
further counsel together, and Richard looked wistfully at them,
wondering what was to happen to him, and wishing he could venture to
ask for Alberic.

Several of the Clergy of the Cathedral presently appeared in
procession, bringing with them the book of the Gospels on which
Richard had taken his installation oath, with others of the sacred
treasures of the Church, preserved in gold cases.  The Priests were
followed by a few of the Norman Knights and Nobles, some of the
burgesses of Rouen, and, to Richard's great joy, by Alberic de
Montemar himself.  The two boys stood looking eagerly at each other,
while preparation was made for the ceremony of the King's oath.

The stone table in the middle of the room was cleared, and arranged
so as in some degree to resemble the Altar in the Cathedral; then the
Count de Harcourt, standing before it, and holding the King's hand,
demanded of him whether he would undertake to be the friend,
protector, and good Lord of Richard, Duke of Normandy, guarding him
from all his enemies, and ever seeking his welfare.  Louis, with his
hand on the Gospels, "swore that so he would."

"Amen!" returned Bernard the Dane, solemnly, "and as thou keepest
that oath to the fatherless child, so may the Lord do unto thine

Then followed the ceremony, which had been interrupted the night
before, of the homage and oath of allegiance which Richard owed to
the King, and, on the other hand, the King's formal reception of him
as a vassal, holding, under him, the two dukedoms of Normandy and
Brittany.  "And," said the King, raising him in his arms and kissing
him, "no dearer vassal do I hold in all my realm than this fair
child, son of my murdered friend and benefactor--precious to me as my
own children, as so on my Queen and I hope to testify."

Richard did not much like all this embracing; but he was sure the
King really meant him no ill, and he wondered at all the distrust the
Centevilles had shown.

"Now, brave Normans," said the King, "be ye ready speedily, for an
onset on the traitor Fleming.  The cause of my ward is my own cause.
Soon shall the trumpet be sounded, the ban and arriere ban of the
realm be called forth, and Arnulf, in the flames of his cities, and
the blood of his vassals, shall learn to rue the day when his foot
trod the Isle of Pecquigny!  How many Normans can you bring to the
muster, Sir Count?"

"I cannot say, within a few hundreds of lances," replied the old
Dane, cautiously; "it depends on the numbers that may be engaged in
the Italian war with the Saracens, but of this be sure, Sir King,
that every man in Normandy and Brittany who can draw a sword or bend
a bow, will stand forth in the cause of our little Duke; ay, and that
his blessed father's memory is held so dear in our northern home,
that it needs but a message to King Harold Blue-tooth to bring a
fleet of long keels into the Seine, with stout Danes enough to carry
fire and sword, not merely through Flanders, but through all France.
We of the North are not apt to forget old friendships and favours,
Sir King."

"Yes, yes, I know the Norman faith of old," returned Louis, uneasily,
"but we should scarcely need such wild allies as you propose; the
Count of Paris, and Hubert of Senlis may be reckoned on, I suppose."

"No truer friend to Normandy than gallant and wise old Hugh the
White!" said Bernard, "and as to Senlis, he is uncle to the boy, and
doubly bound to us."

"I rejoice to see your confidence," said Louis.  "You shall soon hear
from me.  In the meantime I must return to gather my force together,
and summon my great vassals, and I will, with your leave, brave
Normans, take with me my dear young ward.  His presence will plead
better in his cause than the finest words; moreover, he will grow up
in love and friendship with my two boys, and shall be nurtured with
them in all good learning and chivalry, nor shall he ever be reminded
that he is an orphan while under the care of Queen Gerberge and

"Let the child come to me, so please you, my Lord the King," answered
Harcourt, bluntly.  "I must hold some converse with him, ere I can

"Go then, Richard," said Louis, "go to your trusty vassal--happy are
you in possessing such a friend; I hope you know his value."

"Here then, young Sir," said the Count, in his native tongue, when
Richard had crossed from the King's side, and stood beside him, "what
say you to this proposal?"

"The King is very kind," said Richard.  "I am sure he is kind; but I
do not like to go from Rouen, or from Dame Astrida."

"Listen, my Lord," said the Dane, stooping down and speaking low.
"The King is resolved to have you away; he has with him the best of
his Franks, and has so taken us at unawares, that though I might yet
rescue you from his hands, it would not be without a fierce struggle,
wherein you might be harmed, and this castle and town certainly
burnt, and wrested from us.  A few weeks or months, and we shall have
time to draw our force together, so that Normandy need fear no man,
and for that time you must tarry with him."

"Must I--and all alone?"

"No, not alone, not without the most trusty guardian that can be
found for you.  Friend Eric, what say you?" and he laid his hand on
the old Baron's shoulder.  "Yet, I know not; true thou art, as a
Norwegian mountain, but I doubt me if thy brains are not too dull to
see through the French wiles and disguises, sharp as thou didst show
thyself last night."

"That was Osmond, not I," said Sir Eric.  "He knows their mincing
tongue better than I.  He were the best to go with the poor child, if
go he must."

"Bethink you, Eric," said the Count, in an undertone, "Osmond is the
only hope of your good old house--if there is foul play, the guardian
will be the first to suffer."

"Since you think fit to peril the only hope of all Normandy, I am not
the man to hold back my son where he may aid him," said old Eric,
sadly.  "The poor child will be lonely and uncared-for there, and it
were hard he should not have one faithful comrade and friend with

"It is well," said Bernard:  "young as he is, I had rather trust
Osmond with the child than any one else, for he is ready of counsel,
and quick of hand."

"Ay, and a pretty pass it is come to," muttered old Centeville, "that
we, whose business it is to guard the boy, should send him where you
scarcely like to trust my son."

Bernard paid no further attention to him, but, coming forward,
required another oath from the King, that Richard should be as safe
and free at his court as at Rouen, and that on no pretence whatsoever
should he be taken from under the immediate care of his Esquire,
Osmond Fitz Eric, heir of Centeville.

After this, the King was impatient to depart, and all was
preparation.  Bernard called Osmond aside to give full instructions
on his conduct, and the means of communicating with Normandy, and
Richard was taking leave of Fru Astrida, who had now descended from
her turret, bringing her hostage with her.  She wept much over her
little Duke, praying that he might safely be restored to Normandy,
even though she might not live to see it; she exhorted him not to
forget the good and holy learning in which he had been brought up, to
rule his temper, and, above all, to say his prayers constantly, never
leaving out one, as the beads of his rosary reminded him of their
order.  As to her own grandson, anxiety for him seemed almost lost in
her fears for Richard, and the chief things she said to him, when he
came to take leave of her, were directions as to the care he was to
take of the child, telling him the honour he now received was one
which would make his name forever esteemed if he did but fulfil his
trust, the most precious that Norman had ever yet received.

"I will, grandmother, to the very best of my power," said Osmond; "I
may die in his cause, but never will I be faithless!"

"Alberic!" said Richard, "are you glad to be going back to Montemar?"

"Yes, my Lord," answered Alberic, sturdily, "as glad as you will be
to come back to Rouen."

"Then I shall send for you directly, Alberic, for I shall never love

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